Review: Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke

If anyone needed this self-help book, it was me. I actually have at least one thing in common with author Gail Blanke – both of our mother’s were extremely organized, while both of us struggle to keep ourselves organized. That’s a good start. In addition, as I have mentioned before, I am a packrat. I need to go through things periodically and sift out the detritus, but sometimes it is almost physically painful to throw things away.

The approach is rather novel. Instead of focusing on how to organize the stuff you have, the book focuses on getting rid of things you don’t need, so you don’t need to organize them. Blanke talks about the Rules of Disengagement to help you detach yourself from things you should get rid of. It’s one of the really smart parts of the book: recognizing that things we keep have emotional attachments, even the worthless things. But why hang on to t-shirts and caps from employee outings you didn’t want to go on, photos from an old relationship you have long since left behind, and other things that bring up bad memories?

I’ve spent enough time scraping by, financially speaking, to be very careful about throwing things away. Now I find myself at a point where I can afford to replace the shabbier parts of my wardrobe, so I need to give the closet a good cleaning.

Still, there’s a part of me that says “you could still wear that, in a pinch.” Instead, accordinging to Blanke, I should throw away thinks that don’t fit my “brand”, that don’t portray the person I want to be. That should make the winnowing process easier.

She also emphasizes using this whole process as a way to influence your future. For example: as you are going through your medicine cabinet, why keep medication for a problem you don’t intend to have again? Can *deciding* you want to be well help you stay well? There are plenty of reasons to think that a positive mental attitude will help you get well and stay well. (I wouldn’t take that to extremes – deciding you don’t want to have diabetes and throwing out your insulin is not a good plan.)

Each section is followed by a scorecard, so you can keep track of your progress. Some sections require not just throwing away items, but ridding yourself of bad ideas, as well. She has even put together a website designed to help you keep track of the items you’ve discarded and their stories

All in all, this is a good pick. She tells a lot of stories to illustrate her points and I found those very helpful. I like the emphasis on organizing for who you want to be and getting rid of things that don’t fit with that. I also like the emphasis on negative thoughts we need to get rid of if we want to move forward. It’s a little new-agey, but not obnoxiously so

My copy was provided by the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program; you can get your copy from

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